Minshew Mania travels abroad, debuts in Jaguars' 2nd home
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Minshew Mania stretches coast to coast , from Jacksonville to Pullman, Washington. Gardner Minshew could gain an international following this week, too.
The rookie quarterback will make his London debut when the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) face AFC rival Houston (5-3) at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
"I'm sure it'll be pretty good," Minshew said Wednesday when asked about his anticipated reception. "I hear they are pretty big Jags fans over there. If they're Jags fans, then they're my fans, too."
It could be Minshew's final start this season. Nick Foles (broken collarbone) is eligible to come off injured reserve in time for Jacksonville's next game, at Indianapolis on Nov. 17, and has a chance to regain his starting role.
"This is too big of a game to really think about anything else," Minshew said. "We're sitting at a pivotal point, playing a divisional opponent and this will be the last time we get to play them, so it's definitely a big one."
It's significant for Jacksonville's season and equally important to the small-market franchise's financial stability .
The Jaguars credit about 11% of their local revenue to playing annually abroad.
Jacksonville's ticket, television, sponsorship and stadium revenue streams are smaller than NFL teams in larger markets. Earning money in London helps offset some of the disparity, and the game remains a critical part of the team's long-term plan.
The Jaguars have played a "home game" at Wembley Stadium every year since 2013 and are under contract to do so through 2020. Jaguars owner Shad Khan and team president Mark Lamping expect the contract to be extended, but they also see the growing desire for other teams to play overseas.
"We are absolutely committed to it," Khan said earlier this year. "All the stats, everything we have, what it has done with playing in London is stabilizing the Jaguars here in Jacksonville."
Khan tried to strengthen Jacksonville's foothold in London by bidding $790 million (£600 million) to buy historic Wembley in 2018. He withdrew his offer for the English Football Association's main asset last October after recognizing the extent of opposition to the sale.
Khan and the Jaguars insist the move was never intended to create a potential relocation spot for the NFL team but rather a way to gain more control over American football in the burgeoning overseas market. It also would have funneled more money back to Jacksonville.
Khan remains open to buying Wembley if it were to end up back on the market.
In the meantime, the Jaguars believe playing in London every year provides them an advantage over everyone else in the league. Nearly 60% of the team's 53-man roster has played at least one NFL game in London.
"The biggest thing is knowing what to expect," veteran defensive end Lerentee McCray said. "We go over there knowing what to expect. The coaches and management, they know how to get us prepared. And as a player, having the experience, we know a little bit, too. We know what works for us."
Minshew has no idea how to handle the seven-hour flight and ensuing jet lag.
His path to the pros took him from Troy to Northwest Mississippi Community College to East Carolina and finally to Washington State, where he led the nation in passing in 2018.
But he's never been out of the country.
"I've been asking people like what's good to see," he said. "Maybe the London Eye. That's the big Ferris wheel, right? Is it just that big? It's a pretty big deal? So maybe that, I guess. Go see the town from that."